The second official Scotland Early College High School graduation ceremony at St. Andrews University saw 39 students receive diplomas.
In addition to a high school diploma, 20 of the graduates, left the program Saturday with a two-year associate’s degree from Richmond Community College to show for their five years of study. All students graduated with some level of college credit, and many are expected to finish their associate’s degrees later this year at RCC.
“There are some very happy people on graduation day,” said Joe Critcher, SEarCH principal. “It is a huge accomplishment, as they’re doing six years of education in five - we had three people do it in four this year. It’s a great feeling to watch them when they get here and they’re full of energy. Then you see them start to struggle a little bit when they start college classes because even the smartest kids have to study.”
The past school year has been the program’s sixth, with 2012 graduates the first to obtain the entirety of their secondary education at SEarCH. Nearly 90 percent of the school’s students are first-generation college students.
“The graduates last year have done very well this year,” Critcher said. “We had three or four to come to this year’s graduation and we’ve had a couple as guest speakers.”
Valedictorian Asa Turner provided the commencement speech during Saturday morning’s ceremony, and salutatorian Kyley Polston introduced guest speaker Demond McKenzie, director of the N.C. New Schools Project STEM program.
This fall, SEarCH graduates will head to colleges including N.C. State University, UNC-Wilmington, Appalachian State University, Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Charlotte, and Lee College in Tennessee.
Critcher said that SEarCH students will be well-prepared to earn degrees at four-year institutions.
“They turn into college students very rapidly and have to understand organizing their time,” he said. “The professors are going to have a lot of high expectations, and once they learn that it’s a big step. They realize that they can’t put things off, they can’t procrastinate. I think that prepares them when they leave here and go to the four year school.”